Japanese toilets are fitted with a variety of functions, including heated seats and a jet that cleans your bottom with warm water. Because of this they come with numerous buttons for operating these functions. At present, many of these are written in Japanese only, and the designs of their pictograms differ depending on the manufacturer. Finding these “difficult to understand,” foreign tourists have expressed dissatisfaction with them. Because of this, the “Japanese Restroom Association,” an organization made up of manufacturers of toilets and related products, announced this January that the designs of eight common pictograms would be standardized. Toilet manufacturers are adopting this system starting with new products made in 2017. The standardized pictograms are for the opening and closing of the lid, opening and closing of the seat, spray, bidet, dry, stop, big flush, and small flush. With an eye to the global market, they have emphasized the importance of making them intuitively easy to understand. The movement to alter Japanese pictograms so that foreigners can easily understand them has been gathering momentum and is not only restricted to toilets. A pictogram of steam vapor rising from a circle that represents a bathtub has been used to represent hot springs since the Edo period (17th to 19th centuries) and is familiar to all Japanese citizens. This symbol is called an onsen mark, and is used in maps of Japan. However, for many non-Japanese, this symbol brings to mind a hot dish such as ramen. In the run-up to the Tokyo Olympics 2020, decisions have to be made on whether to place importance on tradition or give precedence to the dictates of globalization. In the end it was decided that both onsen symbols would be used.
Explore Japanese culture with Hiragana TimesSubscribe